Twenty-nine-year-old farmer Sophie Hope says she feels more equipped to lead change in her business after being part of a Tesco training programme aimed at helping young people into farming.
Ms Hope is in the process of taking over the family farm and started on Tesco’s Future Farmer Foundation (FFF) last year.
Her farm includes a 380-sow farrow-to-finish unit supplying Tesco, an 80,000-broiler breeding unit, DIY livery yard, forestry, arable and pick-your-own fruit.
With 20 employees and big ambitions to make changes, she said FFF’s leadership training and supply chain contacts were helping her lead her staff and understand more about delivering what her customers want.
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Ms Hope was one of 15 young farmers selected last year for intensive training as part of the first round of the FFF programme. Further young people were given a cut-down version of the training.
Another 50 young farmers started training this autumn for the second year of the programme, with 15 chosen to receive intensive training again.
The intensive training covers leadership skills, business planning, insight into the supply chain, volatility management skills and even the chance to study abroad.
Tom Hind, agricultural manager at Tesco, said the programme was in part about recognising that routes into farming were becoming more varied. For example, last year’s intake of FFF farmers included a national trust manager, a new entrant sheep farmer and someone who had become interested in laying hens as a business.
One young horticulturalist was even supported to grow British watermelons, which were then sold in a Tesco store. Mr Hind said they “flew off the shelves”.
The FFF programme is free and aims to help bright and driven young people enter agriculture. It is open to those aged 20-35, with or without agricultural qualifications, who live and work in the UK.
Young people who are taking over the family farm, embarking on a new business venture or entering the industry for the first time will be considered.
The next round of applications is expected to open in the new year.
More information can be found online.